As we kick off the new year, we wanted to take a minute to catch up with Scott, and see what’s been going on at the iSoccer office in San Francisco.
Scott, it’s the start of the 2012 fall season. What’s new with iSoccer?
Well, the big news is that we just hit 1,000,000 scores logged! We are thrilled that we hit the goal laid out when we launched the National Standards Project two years ago.
It’s been awesome to see more and more players, coaches, and parents running with iSoccer, and committing to raising the level of soccer in the US. Obviously, this is a long term project, but we are excited to see momentum building, and glad to be a part of the solution.
So you reached the goal of 1M scores logged – what’s next?
We used the scores to establish iSoccer Standards based on age, gender, and location – now we are moving into the next phase of the Project, which revolves around using these Standards to create a skill game.
We all know how powerful games can be, so we are turning ‘practice’ into a game, where players can compete against themselves, their teammates, and the community. The goal is to get more and more kids excited to spend time with the ball.
How exactly does iSoccer make training into a game?
Players can earn skill levels, badges, and accolades for completing activities and interacting with the online and mobile platform. The difference between iSoccer and other online games, though, is that our goal is to actually get players outside, instead of staring at a screen for hours!
It’s all about using technology and tapping into the psychology of game dynamics to make practice more fun. No matter how skilled a player is, there is another level that they can work towards achieving.
Any advice for coaches or parents who are using iSoccer for the first time this season?
Keep it fun! Sure, the iSoccer Assessment is great for tracking development, but the primary goal of iSoccer is motivating players. If you set up fun challenges and reward improvement, you can engage all type of players.
Also, as a parent or coach, if you are excited, players will feed off that. Ultimately, you can use iSoccer to create healthy competition around skill development, taking some of the emphasis off winning and losing.
Looking back, what have you learned in the last two years?
Wow, tough question – we’ve learned so much in the last couple years! We’ve gotten a ton of feedback from people around the country and the world, which has really helped us constantly improve the platform. One of the main things we have learned though, is that coaches and parents are very busy – obviously!
So we are focusing on simplifying things, and improving the user experience so that iSoccer.org and iSoccer Mobile become easier to use, and more engaging for players at the same time.
I love hearing from our community, by the way, so anyone should feel free to shoot me a quick email at email@example.com with feedback, thoughts, ideas, cool stories, or just to say hi!
Any new features people can look forward to?
Haha, well without tipping our hand too much, we do have some exciting stuff coming out in the coming months. We are about to launch our newest features – Player Points and Velocity. Basically, players will earn points for everything they do, and will be able to see how fast they are working towards improving. Coaches will see all of this, and players can compete with their teammates.
Also, keep an eye out for the Goalie Assessment we are creating with Tony DiCicco, and more advanced, partner iSoccer Assessments coming soon.
By Scott Leber:
From the Karate Kid to iSoccer: The Skill Mastery Journey
The notion that someone is just naturally born with a talent is largely a myth. Star athletes, musicians and artists have spent countless hours in training before we see them performing on the ‘big stage.’ You don’t just pick up a violin and start tackling Vivaldi either – you start with basic scales and work your way up. From music, to karate, to soccer, you must continually work on mastering the basics as you learn to play at a higher and higher level.
However, a common problem for youth is that spending time on the basics can often be tedious and boring. But by adding the ability to witness incremental improvement, basic skill training can be rewarding, which leads to the ultimately satisfying realization of, “Hey, I’m actually getting pretty good at this!”
“Football is simple. But the hardest thing is to play football in a simple way.”
- Johan Cruyff
The first part of that quote sums up why you must master the basics. When you boil it down, soccer is a simple game. Before any of the complexities of the modern game, it’s just you and the ball, and what you can do with it, which we refer to as technique. Whether it was in the street, at the park, or in practice, all the best players spent thousands of hours growing up working on basic technical skills before they were able to do what we see on television. For example, when Dennis Bergkamp was a youth player at Ajax, “they had little three foot high walls [and] would knock the ball against them for hours.” Later, he was able to do this:
Once the most basic elements of soccer become second nature, a player can start expanding their focus to include strategy, tactics, and creativity. But if you are still worried about making a simple trap, the advanced aspects of soccer will be hard to perform consistently.
How many soccer coaches hear from players that the ‘technical’ part of practice is no fun? “Can’t we just scrimmage!?” It’s true, focusing on the basics is not necessarily as fun as just playing. Deliberate practice is repetitive, requires focus, and sometimes seems more like work than play. So how do you convince kids that to play soccer well, you must spend time on the basics? Well, you can take the Mr. Miyagi approach and trick them into working on the fundamentals:
Sure, toe taps, juggling, and dribbling in Figure 8’s aren’t the same as cleaning floors, but the point is the same. Mr. Miyagi turned to creative means to force Daniel to realize that the basics are important, and once he saw that he was, in fact, learning karate, things clicked for Daniel. However up until that point, Daniel was frustrated because Mr. Miyagi’s method was missing the ability to see improvement during the training, instead of after, regardless of the nature of the training. That’s where iSoccer comes in.
The ability to witness yourself making incremental improvement is the key to making basic skill training rewarding from day one. If you are going to spend hours on something, don’t you want to know that you are actually getting somewhere? To do that, you need to be able to easily measure those basic skills, hence the iSoccer Assessment. So even if a player is just starting out, or has been playing for years, they can see themselves getting better, slowly but surely, through their iSoccer scores.
The basic psychological component of iSoccer is that people, and kids especially, want to know that they are moving in a positive direction towards the final goal of actually being good at something! Without that ability, many young players learning the game become frustrated because they don’t know if they are getting better, and end up leaving soccer to pursue other interests. However, once a young player gets a little momentum going, they get excited about improving, and their potential is endless.
The Karate Kid didn’t realize that he was actually getting better at karate until after the fact. iSoccer is here to help players realize that they are improving during their training, which helps motivate them to spend more time with the ball. After all, they say it’s not the destination, but the journey!
We’re excited to present Magnus as our latest Featured Player! He raised his iSoccer Skill Level from White (1) to Green (5) in just 6 months, and is a great example for young players everywhere. Check out how Magnus and his family play iSoccer together!
Name: Magnus – Age: 10 – Lives: Maryland
iSoccer Level: Green, 5.0
- “Without question, he’s learning lessons that he will take with him for the rest of his life: setting achievable goals, working hard, and having fun doing it. Magnus may not realize it right now, but iSoccer is creating a foundation within him for future success on and off the field.” – Dad
- “I feel more comfortable when the ball comes to me in the air, when before I was hesitant.” – Magnus
- “We practice with him and compete against him on many of the skills – it’s great exercise for us and a nice way to relax after a day at work.” – Dad
- “I haven’t done this in 20 years, so it’s fun to relearn it with my son.” – Mom
A big thanks to Magnus and his family for sending in the video footage and helping inspire players all over North America!
Magnus shows that no matter what your scores are when you start iSoccer, if you spend time working on the iSoccer Skills, you will get more comfortable with the ball. And to all the parents out there – challenge your kids on a couple iSoccer Skills! It doesn’t matter if you’ve never played soccer before – have fun with it!
The iSoccer Team
Just because winter weather is right around the corner, it doesn’t mean you need to stop trying to improve your iSoccer scores. Here are two easy ways anyone can play iSoccer indoors, without destroying the house!
When playing outside isn’t an option, it’s all about being creative to still get touches in over the winter. So head to the gym, garage, or basement, and use a tennis or size 1 ball to keep raising your level during the off-season. But remember – be safe and don’t break anything!
In 2009, Bill Miles became the coach of a rec-level U10 girls team in Hanover, NH, a small town of 10,000. Three years later, they won the U12 New Hampshire State Cup. Let’s take a look at what happened during those years, and why their coach thinks winning wasn’t their greatest achievement.
Coach Miles believed that skill training was key to his young team’s development, but he wasn’t sure how to get his players excited to spend more time with the ball. He had played D1 soccer at UPenn, but couldn’t use the drills he learned in college – they were too advanced, and emphasized the wrong part of the game for U10 players.
He discussed these issues with another coach, who introduced him to iSoccer. After using iSoccer at only one practice, Coach Miles said a light bulb went off. “iSoccer gave me a repeatable process that was fun, focused on the basic skills necessary for young players, and actually worked!”
- They started using iSoccer at the beginning of every practice, sometimes as a formal assessment, and sometimes as a quick challenge.
- Throughout practice, they used 20 seconds, and even came up with some new skills on their own.
- Coach Miles set short and long terms goals for everyone to achieve.
- iSoccer helped create a strong bond among teammates, and led to healthy, fun competition in training that motivated the entire team to spend time with the ball away from practice.
*The concept of a “growth mindset” was pioneered by Columbia and Stanford psychologist, Dr. Carol Dweck. She explains that, “in a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” You can read more about her groundbreaking studies with school children.
iSoccer uses games to create a fun path that shows kids how to improve in soccer and in life. Coach Miles used iSoccer as a foundation, applied it to his personal coaching philosophy, and ran with it. How you use it is up to you!
The iSoccer Team
- Weekly Points Goal: Players, how many points can you earn this week? You get points for entering scores, raising your Skill Levels, and even just logging into your account. Can you earn 1,000 points this week? 5,000?
- Award Points to Players: Coaches, did you know that you can give or take away points from players in your account? Use this feature to reward players for doing well, or take away points to keep them honest. Give your players points this week, and get them excited to play iSoccer away from practice.
The iSoccer Team
- 5m One Touch Partner Passing: In 20 seconds, see how many one touch passes you and a partner can complete from 5 meters apart with any foot. If you have to take a second touch, or if the ball doesn’t go 5 meters, don’t count that pass and keep going. Can you get to 5, 10, 20, or 25?
- 2.5m One Touch Partner Passing: Move it in, and see how many passes you can do from 2.5 meters apart. It’s all about quick feet on this one!
The iSoccer Team
- Players: What’s one area of your game that you have been struggling with this season? Non-preferred foot dribbling? Shooting? Aerial control? Pick one or two iSoccer Skills and really focus on raising those scores in the next couple weeks. Login>>>
- Coaches: Choose one or two iSoccer Skills that your team needs to improve on as a whole, and set a team goal to collectively raise those scores. Be sure to offer a group reward for hitting the goal, like a free-play practice. Login>>>
- Parents: Help your player improve on a couple iSoccer Skills by scoring them and encouraging them to set goals. (You can even score yourself and challenge your player to see who can raise their scores the most. It doesn’t matter what scores you get or if you’ve never played soccer before – have fun with it!) Login>>>
The iSoccer Team
Dennis Bergkamp, said that when he was a young player at Ajax, they had little three foot high walls. He would knock the ball against it for hours. He would do it over and over, trying to establish a rhythm.
“I would also hit the ball against the side of the house… Hitting the ball with both feet, seeing how long I could return the wall passes without losing control. I found out later that so many pros spend lots of their childhood doing that.”
- from More Than Goals, by Claudio Reyna
Good luck and have fun this season.
The iSoccer Team
Setting a monthly iSoccer goal is an easy way to get motivated and challenge yourself or your players to spend more time with the ball. Be sure to sweeten the deal with a fun reward (doesn’t have to be a material reward!) for reaching a goal.
1. Coaches: Team Goals
Setting a team goal is a great way to get everyone working together as a group. It can be as simple as raising your Overall Team Level, which means every player has to improve their scores, no matter what those scores are. Reward them with a free-play practice, or something else fun!
2. Players: Personal Goals
Whether you want to raise your Overall Skill Level, or focus on a specific skill that you have been struggling with, set a personal goal for the next month. Beating your high score and achieving your goal is a great feeling and you’ll know that you’re becoming a better player.
3. Parents: Family Goals
Help your player set a quick goal, and offer encouragement and recognition when they hit their goal. You can even score yourself (doesn’t matter what score you get!) and challenge your child to see who can raise their score the most. Have fun with it!
So check out your iSoccer scores, and set a quick goal for yourself or your players this month.
The iSoccer Team